China's Ma Long eased into the men's singles second round at the World Table Tennis Championships Finals ©Getty Images

Olympic champions Ma Long and Chen Meng eased through to the second round on the opening day of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) World Table Tennis Championships Finals in Durban.

The nine-day tournament at the Durban International Convention Centre marks the first time the event has been staged on the African continent since the 1939 edition in Egypt's capital Cairo.

At the Opening Ceremony of the landmark World Championships, ITTF President Petra Sörling reflected on host nation South Africa's history, including its more than two-decade sporting exile during the apartheid era.

"Africa boasts the youngest population among continents, and it is increasingly important to empower the younger generation to shape the future of sports," the Swedish official said.

"Starting right here, celebrating the diversity of Durban.

"It has not always been this way. 

"While in 1956, the ITTF recognised the non-discriminatory South African Table Tennis Board as the governing body in South Africa, paving the way for other sports organisations to take similar initiatives, the South African Table Tennis Board could not send teams to any international events for decades. 

"Today, I am immensely proud to open the World Championships in South Africa."

Durban is the place to be was unveiled as the tournament's official theme song at the Opening Ceremony with a live performance from Kyle Desai and King Licious.

South Africa's Dean Levy played in the opening men's singles game of the World Championships, losing 11-2, 11-4, 11-1, 11-4 to Senegal's Ibrahima Diaw.

ITTF President Petra Sörling said she was
ITTF President Petra Sörling said she was "immensely proud to open the World Championships in South Africa", the first on the African continent since 1939 ©ITTF

Back-to-back men's singles Olympic gold medallist Ma of China eased past Argentina's Gastón Alto 11-5, 11-2, 11-3, 11-8, setting up a second round tie against Canada's Eugene Wang who won a six-game clash against Hungary's Bence Majoros 11-8, 11-4, 11-7, 6-11, 7-11, 12-10.

Ma's compatriot Liang Jingkun, a singles bronze medallist at the last two World Championships, is also safely through after beating Alfred Dela Pena of New Zealand 11-8, 11-9, 11-2, 11-3.

Maharu Yoshimura of Japan is set to be his next opponent after a comfortable 11-8, 11-9, 11-2, 11-3 win against Australia's Finn Luu.

China's defending champion and Olympic silver medallist Fan Zhendong knows his second round opponent after Greece's Panagiotis Gionis beat Amir Hossein Hodaei of Iran 13-15, 13-11, 7-11, 11-7, 11-4, 11-8.

Women's singles Olympic champion Chen of China eased past Egypt's Yousra Abdel Razek 11-5, 11-1, 11-5, 11-4 to start her campaign.

Fifth seed Chen Xingtong of China is also safely through to a second-round tie against South Korea's Lee Zi-on after an 11-7, 11-4, 11-7, 11-3 victory against Luxembourg's Sarah De Nutte.

Amelie Solja of Austria clinched a second-round tie against the world number one Sun Yingsha with a 2-11, 12-10, 11-9, 11-6, 7-11, 11-7 win against Sweden's Filippa Bergand.

First round action at the ITTF World Table Tennis Championships Finals in Durban is set to conclude tomorrow.